Openreach shines as fibre investment hits inflection point in BT financial year

UK’s leading comms provider posts mixed financial year and reports peak capex on full-fibre broadband roll-out after hitting £3bn cost and service transformation programme a year ahead of schedule

BT has reported a financial year of flat revenues and a significant fall in profits, but has generated enthusiasm in stock markets with the news it has reached a peak for its investments in full-fibre broadband.

For the 12-month period ended 31 March 2024, BT reported revenue of £20.8bn, inching up just 1% on an annual basis. Revenues were driven mainly due to price increases and fibre-enabled product sales in its Openreach broadband provision division, increased service revenue in Consumer with annual contractual price rises being aided by higher roaming and increased fibre to the premises (FTTP) connections, partly offset by legacy product declines, and a one-off revenue adjustment in the Business division.

Adjusted EBITDA was £8.1bn, up 2% and up 1% on a pro forma basis, with revenue flow-through and cost control more than offsetting cost inflation and one-off items. The Openreach and Consumer divisions delivered particular EBITDA growth, partially offset by EBITDA decline in Business due to increased input costs and legacy high-margin managed contract declines. Profit before tax tumbled 31% on an annual basis to £1.186bn and profit after tax was £855m, down 55% on an annual basis.

Business division revenues slipped 2% annually to £8.128bn, while Consumer revenues rose 4% year-on-year to £9.833bn. Openreach adjusted revenue for the year was £6.077bn, up 7% compared with the end of the 2023 financial year, and Openreach broadband ARPU in FY24 grew year-on-year by 10% due to price rises and increased volumes and mix of FTTP.

That said, Openreach broadband line losses of 491,000 represented a 2% decline in the broadband base, as weaker-than-expected growth in the broadband market in FY24 did not offset competitor losses, which were at comparable levels to FY23. BT expects the broadband market to recover over the medium term, but if it remains weak over the next 12 months, it cautioned it was likely Openreach’s broadband base would be impacted by moderately higher competitor losses.

The fast pace of FTTP deployment was one of the company’s standouts for the year. Indeed, BT revealed that its FTTP build rate accelerated to one million premises passed in the fourth quarter of the year, establishing a record of 78,000 per week.

BT’s FTTP footprint now covers over 14 million premises, with a further six million where initial build is underway, and that was on track to reach 25 million premises by December 2026. FTTP net adds in the fourth quarter totalled 397,000.

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However, as revealed by BT chief executive Allison Kirkby, investment in full-fibre roll-out has now reached a peak.

“BT Group built and connected customers to our next-generation networks at record speed and efficiency over the past year, while continuing to grow revenue and EBITDA,” she said.

“Having passed peak capex on our full-fibre broadband roll-out and achieved our £3bn cost and service transformation programme a year ahead of schedule, we’ve now reached the inflection point on our long-term strategy … As we move into the next phase of BT Group’s transformation, we are sharpening our focus to be better for our customers and the country, by accelerating the modernisation of our operations, and by exploring options to optimise our global business.”

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